PHOENIX - A federal judge appears poised to refer Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for criminal prosecution, after Arpaio's last-ditch plea Friday to avoid charges fell flat.
Federal Judge G. Murray Snow had telegraphed back in May that he was going to seek criminal contempt charges against Arpaio for intentionally ignoring the judge's orders to end racial profiling of Latino drivers.
In his findings of fact two months ago, Snow cited Arpaio's "attitude of hostility" toward the court; "multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith"; and "deliberate misstatements of fact ... under oath," which constitutes perjury.
Snow allowed attorneys for Arpaio, as well as the sheriff's top deputy, Jerry Sheridan, about 20 minutes apiece Friday to tell him why he shouldn't go ahead with the criminal referral.
"I believe there is a positive new attitude at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," Arpaio's criminal defense attorney, former federal prosecutor, Mel McDonald told Snow.
McDonald also cited Arpaio's "remarkable career" and "positive things he's done in life."
Snow wasn't buying any of it.
"They lied to my face," Snow said of Arpaio and Sheridan. "I am through putting up with this stuff."
"They are as responsible as any other citizen in Maricopa County for what they've done," he said.
The 84-year-old Arpaio sat quietly at the defense table after getting no sleep the night before, he told 12 News before the hearing.
Arpaio returned to Phoenix Friday morning on a red-eye flight from Cleveland, where he gave a speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention.
Former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who was unjustly prosecuted by Arpaio, was in the courtroom Friday.
Snow "gave them every opportunity today: 'Convince me they didn't lie,'" Wilcox said. "They could not convince him."
On Wednesday, while Arpaio was in Cleveland, Snow stripped Arpaio of much of his authority over internal affairs cases. Snow appointed an independent judge and an independent investigator to handle cases related to the almost decade-old racial-profiling lawsuit and Arpaio's top commanders.
Friday's hearing came just 11 days before early voting begins in the Republican primary for sheriff, where Arpaio is running for a seventh term.
If Arpaio advances to the general election, polls show he faces a dogfight against his Democratic opponent, Paul Penzone. Polls released Thursday and a month ago, by different organizations, show Penzone leading Arpaio.
Snow gave defense attorneys until Wednesday to file their final briefs on the criminal contempt referral. The judge said from the bench Friday that he wanted to act quickly.
Legal analysts say he could refer Arpaio for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, to the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., whose attorneys have been following the case, or to a special prosecutor -- if the the first two agencies decline the case.